News and Commentary

Schools Are Canceling Halloween Celebrations Over Inclusivity
Schoolchildren wear masks and present many varieties of ghoulish characters during a costume party to celebrate Halloween at Taman Rama International School in Jimbaran on the resort island of Bali on October 30, 2009. Halloween, which falls annually on October 31, is widely celerated amongst the expatriate community in Indonesia as part of an effort to recreate traditions from their homes.
AFP PHOTO/ SONNY TUMBELAKA (Photo credit should read SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images)

The War on Halloween continues in 2019 as schools across the country announce they will not be celebrating the beloved holiday over issues of inclusivity.

According to Yahoo Lifestyle, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, announced last month that Halloween celebrations alienate certain members of the staff and student body who do not participate for religious or personal reasons as well as those who cannot afford costumes.

“As part of our school and district-wide commitment to equity, we are focused on building community and creating inclusive, welcoming environments for all,” the statement from the superintendents read. “While we recognize that Halloween is a fun tradition for many, it is not a holiday that is celebrated by everyone for various reasons and we want to honor that.”

“We are also aware of the range of inequities that are embedded in Halloween celebrations that take place as part of the school day and the unintended negative impact that it can have on some students, families, and staff,” the statement continued. “As a result, we are moving away from Halloween celebrations that include costumes and similar traditions during the school day. We are confident our school communities will find new and engaging ways to build community within their schools.”

“In District 65, we remain committed to equity and discontinuing current and past practices that are not in alignment with our goals,” it concluded. “Our schools are special because of the people who are a part of them and our commitment to serving the educational needs of our students. Many of our schools have already moved away from the traditional Halloween activities during the school day and have scheduled Halloween or other seasonal activities outside of the school day.”

Other schools across the country have expressed similar dissatisfaction with Halloween and have banned the celebration on school grounds. For instance, North Country Elementary in Antelope, California, told CBS Sacramento that the school will be celebrating a “harvest festival” over Halloween.

“We have consistently respected the right of families to choose to have their children participate, or not, in such celebrations,” said the statement. “However, when the number of students choosing to not participate becomes significant, it is incumbent on the school leadership to re-evaluate and determine if the event is truly meeting the social and academic needs of its student population.”

Over at Vermont’s Burlington School District, English Learning director of programs Miriam Ehtesham-Cating told local reporters about the fear people have over culturally-insensitive costumes.

“Many people are made uncomfortable by the notion that you change your identity, you turn into someone else and those somebody else could represent cultural appropriations,” said Cating.

In 2017, the Boyden Elementary School in Walpole, Massachusetts, also canceled Halloween for not being “inclusive enough.” In a message to parents, the school principal said that the parade does not respect students’ “individual differences.”

“The costume parade is out of our ordinary routine and can be difficult for many students,” said the principal. “Also, the parade is not inclusive of all the students and it is our goal each and every day to ensure all student’s individual differences are respected.”

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